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Rafael Nadal Is the French Open’s Man of Mystery

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He wouldn’t be here, he said, if he didn’t think he had a probability to win.

It has been an extended time since Nadal showed up in Paris and this tournament was not his to lose. Nadal’s winning the French Open was long the closest thing to a foregone conclusion on this sport or some other.

In October 2020, with the pandemic having prompted the French Tennis Federation to maneuver the tournament to early fall from late spring, Nadal stampeded through the competition without dropping a set. He embarrassed Djokovic, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, in the ultimate.

Nine months later, though, Djokovic got revenge, breaking Nadal’s spirit and his body during an epic four-set semifinal on his technique to the championship. Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, the degenerative foot condition that Nadal has had since childhood, prevented him from playing for many of the remaining of the 12 months. For months in the course of the fall, Nadal wondered whether he would ever play again.

Then the pain became manageable. And after just a number of weeks of preparation and a single tournament, Nadal won the Australian Open in January, showing the world over again that counting him out is a terrible idea. But in recent days, the pain has been difficult again, and the highest players can sense that the 2022 French Open has a special feel than others in recent memory.

“Numerous competition on the boys’s side,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who lost the ultimate to Djokovic last 12 months after winning the primary two sets. “It’s something that we haven’t seen needless to say in an extended time.”

Tsitsipas, 23, spoke of the “barely younger and really hungry” players like himself, who’re eager to begin winning Grand Slams, and of Carlos Alcaraz, the rising and dangerous 19-year-old from Spain. “He looks as if he plays tennis simply because he enjoys the game,” Tsitsipas said of the young Spaniard. But he prefaced those comments with a reference to Nadal, someone he jokingly described as having won the French Open “at the very least 28 times.” That’s how large his presence looms on these grounds.

Nadal tried to downplay his prowess at Roland Garros on Friday.

He has collected dozens of championships on red clay throughout Europe, winning a dozen in Barcelona, 10 in Rome and 11 in Monte Carlo, so 13 at Roland Garros is sensible, kind of, he suggested. (No, it doesn’t. It’s ridiculous.)

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